U.S. Military Using Fake Social Media Identities To Spread Propaganda

600px-USCENTCOMThe Guardian‘s Nick Fielding and Ian Cobain report that the United States military’s “sock puppet” software creates fake online identities to spread pro-American propaganda:

The US military is developing software that will let it secretly manipulate social media sites by using fake online personas to influence internet conversations and spread pro-American propaganda.

A Californian corporation has been awarded a contract with United States Central Command (Centcom), which oversees US armed operations in the Middle East and Central Asia, to develop what is described as an “online persona management service” that will allow one US serviceman or woman to control up to 10 separate identities based all over the world.

The project has been likened by web experts to China’s attempts to control and restrict free speech on the internet. Critics are likely to complain that it will allow the US military to create a false consensus in online conversations, crowd out unwelcome opinions and smother commentaries or reports that do not correspond with its own objectives.

The discovery that the US military is developing false online personalities – known to users of social media as “sock puppets” – could also encourage other governments, private companies and non-government organisations to do the same.

The Centcom contract stipulates that each fake online persona must have a convincing background, history and supporting details, and that up to 50 US-based controllers should be able to operate false identities from their workstations “without fear of being discovered by sophisticated adversaries”.

Centcom spokesman Commander Bill Speaks said: “The technology supports classified blogging activities on foreign-language websites to enable Centcom to counter violent extremist and enemy propaganda outside the US.”

He said none of the interventions would be in English, as it would be unlawful to “address US audiences” with such technology, and any English-language use of social media by Centcom was always clearly attributed. The languages in which the interventions are conducted include Arabic, Farsi, Urdu and Pashto.

Centcom said it was not targeting any US-based web sites, in English or any other language, and specifically said it was not targeting Facebook or Twitter…

[continues in the Guardian]

majestic

Majestic is gadfly emeritus.

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26 Comments on "U.S. Military Using Fake Social Media Identities To Spread Propaganda"

  1. Thank goodness nothing like that is happening at disinfo.com!

  2. Thank goodness nothing like that is happening at disinfo.com!

  3. The sad part is its hardly needed. I watched an entire nerd-herd flock to Alternet just to group troll an article disparaging a black Republican. Conservatrolls abound already, complete with Digg-patriots manipulating article popularity and other forms of web-war in the battle for cultural relevance. We can only assume that in the era of Wikileaks and heightened sensitivity to online opinion and communication…the DoD wants to jump on the bandwagon and feel like they have some control over the seemingly uncontrollable. Television, be it network or cable, is pretty firmly under the bootheel of market-driven dominance…but the internet still has shreds of the Wild West to it…where the unpredictable holds sway now and then, and the unknown or anonymous can drop a bombshell that makes a difference on a larger scale. Small wonder theres a push to move soft-power style propaganda further into the mix than it already is.

  4. The sad part is its hardly needed. I watched an entire nerd-herd flock to Alternet just to group troll an article disparaging a black Republican. Conservatrolls abound already, complete with Digg-patriots manipulating article popularity and other forms of web-war in the battle for cultural relevance. We can only assume that in the era of Wikileaks and heightened sensitivity to online opinion and communication…the DoD wants to jump on the bandwagon and feel like they have some control over the seemingly uncontrollable. Television, be it network or cable, is pretty firmly under the bootheel of market-driven dominance…but the internet still has shreds of the Wild West to it…where the unpredictable holds sway now and then, and the unknown or anonymous can drop a bombshell that makes a difference on a larger scale. Small wonder theres a push to move soft-power style propaganda further into the mix than it already is.

    • WhiteRose | Mar 18, 2011 at 1:11 pm |

      Anonymous can drop a bombshell you say? -NEGATIVE- I find their approach totally ineffective. They have all this great dirt but fail to drop their info bomb in a way that gets any real cause for change as say compared to that political activist James O’Keefe. Guess everyone needs to do their business meetings at Burger King where it says no recording….

      • I said “the unknown or anonymous”…generic terms…not the Anonymous. What I mean is that the potential exists for people to make a difference…and some have made a little, others more, others less. O’Queef and his frauds generate interest because he’s pre linked into a network of GOP media kingpins that launder his badly edited chop jobs and make them cable news standards.

        the unknown who makes a difference is the local kid who films dirty cops taking money or mauling people, or the musician who becomes a sensation by virtue of talent without the benefits of a million dollar marketing campaign to back him.

        A lot is possible here amongst the interwebs. Not unlike a gun…its all in how you choose to use it.

  5. Anonymous | Mar 18, 2011 at 3:21 pm |

    Trolls can enjoy a wonderful cluster -fuck here at disinfo.

    Smooooooch!

  6. GoodDoktorBad | Mar 18, 2011 at 11:21 am |

    Trolls can enjoy a wonderful cluster -fuck here at disinfo.

    Smooooooch!

  7. Silas J. Crewcut | Mar 18, 2011 at 3:35 pm |

    Good job, commies! Play right into the hands of Al Qaeda, why don’cha? Those god-fearing heroes in uniform are the only thing standing between you and being stoned to death for a parking ticket under Shariah Law!

  8. Anonymous | Mar 18, 2011 at 3:35 pm |

    It is good to have this sort of machine in place. It will help to keep America strong and our people together. The Government cares about you and your money, they only want stability for you all. There are no conspiracies here, oh look a new “24” is on, talk to you guys later.

  9. Silas J. Crewcut | Mar 18, 2011 at 11:35 am |

    Good job, commies! Play right into the hands of Al Qaeda, why don’cha? Those god-fearing heroes in uniform are the only thing standing between you and being stoned to death for a parking ticket under Shariah Law!

  10. Investinourftre | Mar 18, 2011 at 11:35 am |

    It is good to have this sort of machine in place. It will help to keep America strong and our people together. The Government cares about you and your money, they only want stability for you all. There are no conspiracies here, oh look a new “24” is on, talk to you guys later.

  11. Anonymous | Mar 18, 2011 at 3:38 pm |

    9/11 9/11 9/11 love your government.

  12. WhiteRose | Mar 18, 2011 at 5:11 pm |

    Anonymous can drop a bombshell you say? -NEGATIVE- I find their approach totally ineffective. They have all this great dirt but fail to drop their info bomb in a way that gets any real cause for change as say compared to that political activist James O’Keefe. Guess everyone needs to do their business meetings at Burger King where it says no recording….

  13. The Lives of Others in the U.S., scary stuff!

  14. The Lives of Others in the U.S., scary stuff!

  15. That’s why I try to counter pro-Americanism with clear thinking, thoughtful posts.

  16. That’s why I try to counter pro-Americanism with clear thinking, thoughtful posts.

  17. Anonymous | Mar 18, 2011 at 6:36 pm |

    Point of clarification: The term “Pro-American” (like “U.S. interests”) refers to being supportive of the interests of the wealthy.

  18. Transformative | Mar 18, 2011 at 2:36 pm |

    Point of clarification: The term “Pro-American” (like “U.S. interests”) refers to being supportive of the interests of the wealthy.

  19. Btronkilla | Mar 18, 2011 at 8:22 pm |

    And what is this website? a fake social outlet to spread anti-american propaganda?

  20. Btronkilla | Mar 18, 2011 at 4:22 pm |

    And what is this website? a fake social outlet to spread anti-american propaganda?

  21. Wait, you mean I can’t trust everything I see on the internet?!

  22. Wait, you mean I can’t trust everything I see on the internet?!

  23. I said “the unknown or anonymous”…generic terms…not the Anonymous. What I mean is that the potential exists for people to make a difference…and some have made a little, others more, others less. O’Queef and his frauds generate interest because he’s pre linked into a network of GOP media kingpins that launder his badly edited chop jobs and make them cable news standards.

    the unknown who makes a difference is the local kid who films dirty cops taking money or mauling people, or the musician who becomes a sensation by virtue of talent without the benefits of a million dollar marketing campaign to back him.

    A lot is possible here amongst the interwebs. Not unlike a gun…its all in how you choose to use it.

Comments are closed.